Mar 28, 2012; Surprise, AZ, USA; A general view of a game between the Texas Rangers and Kansas City Royals during the seventh inning at Surprise Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
A little background first, I recently moved to Arizona in good part to be closer to all the baseball out here, and am currently living across the street from a spring complex. This is a complex I frequent almost daily, whether it be to catch a big league game, batting practices, or minor league games. Saturday I took the day off from baseball (TV not included) to work on finishing the move, but baseball just has it’s way of reaching out and grabbing you around here.
Fast forward to the evening, my fiance and I are just back in from a dinner out with friends, and we decide to take our dog out for his regular evening walk. But right from the moment we step out the front door, this evening is different. There is a slight breeze on a perfect 72 degree evening, and there is a familiar sound in the air, but it doesn’t seem right given the fact it is a little after 8 PM. As we begin the walk, the sound becomes clear, it is the sound of the pop of a baseball as it hits the catcher’s mit, the Kansas City Royals are throwing bullpens. Then we hear another sound, another sound that is unmistakable, it is the crack of a bat. Then we see it, there are minor league baseball games going on that were not on the original schedule released by the teams, the Royals are taking on the Texas Rangers.
For the first time this spring, I head down to the fields without a stopwatch or notebook, but instead to simply to enjoy some baseball. My fiance, my dog, and I set up on the bleachers down the left field line of the Double-A game and take in the evening. One kid is pitching while another plays catcher with a foul ball they just recently caught. A minor leaguer for the Rangers had just finished pitching, and is ready to head back to the clubhouse, but decides to stand in and act as a batter for the kids playing catch. The one pitching hollers over to his dad, “look, I am a real minor league pitcher now.”
Joey Gallo makes the first contact in the three games I have seen him this spring, but it hardly even registers for me. I am distracted by a scout for the Oakland A’s who has come by to say hi to our dog. I decide not to let my Boston Red Sox fandom shine through and don’t let him know my dog’s name is Fenway. Nick Williams is at the plate, I can clearly see in the swing and the body why he is a top prospect, but there is a second wild pitch from the bullpen that goes buzzing by us. Coaches and players in the dugout give the pitcher and catcher some good hearted ribbing I imagine, but it is all in Spanish, so I couldn’t tell you for sure. I look up and Williams is walking back to the dugout, I think he struck out.
By this time, we have gotten in a few innings, but with all the baseballs flying around the two fields my dog was becoming restless and it was time to head back in, but I knew there would be more baseball at fields all over the greater Phoenix area just twelve hours later.
There is no place like Spring Training. Whether you have a family of four, or are a single guy who just loves baseball, Spring Training has just what you are looking for. If you are a baseball fan, and if you are reading this you probably are, Spring Training is a trip you should make at least once. Once at Spring Training, be sure to experience the hidden gem that are the backfields. You never know what you are going to see, whether it is a Hall of Famer (George Brett in my case) talking hitting with a bunch of coaches, a future Hall of Famer (Ivan Rodriguez) giving a baby a ride in a golf cart to quiet him down, a big leaguer getting extra work in, or the stars of the future. Not only do you get a front row seat to it all, but chances are you will get the chance to shake their hand, and maybe even have a brief conversation with them all.